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Northern Lebanon girls continue thrill ride

The Vikings added to their season thrill ride on Monday night, outlasting Manheim Township 47-41 in OT in an L-L playoff opener.

FREDERICKSBURG - A packed house. Blow-the-roof-off-the place enthusiasm from fans of both sides. Two proud, hard-nosed teams throwing four quarters worth of haymakers at each other and sticking their chins out the whole time.

What more could you want in a high school basketball game?

Not a darn thing if you're in any way connected with the Northern Lebanon girls basketball program.

The Vikings continued their feel-very-good thrill ride of a season Monday night, adding a few more reels to the highlight film with an exhilarating 47-41 overtime victory over Manheim Township in a Lancaster-Lebanon League quarterfinal playoff battle of wills at frenzied Northern Lebanon High School.

Fresh off its first Section Three title in three decades, 22-1 Northern Lebanon wasn't simply happy to be among the L-L playoff qualifiers, bringing the same lights-out intensity to the playoffs that it rode through the regular season.

And the Vikes needed every bit of it against an equally tough and bigger Township squad, finally pulling through by outscoring the Section One reps 8-2 over the final 1:37 of OT on the strength of Megan Brandt's go-ahead putback with 54 seconds left and two gigantic offensive rebounds by no longer unsung hero Amber Kintzer.

The triumph lifts Northern Lebanon into Wednesday night's semifinals against county rival Lebanon Catholic, which edged Ephrata 41-38. The contest is set for 7 p.m. at Lebanon High.

"It was two teams just slugging it out, basically." said NL coach Ken Battistelli. "My kids are gonna be really, really tired tonight, because they had that motor on for, we always say 32 minutes, but tonight it was 36. It was just a battle, a battle all night."

A battle that neither team ever backed away from for a second.

Township (15-8) was not bothered by Northern Lebanon's boisterous home crowd support, standing nose-to-nose with the Vikes for all five periods behind 13 points from Caitlyn Newcomer and 11 more from fellow forward Caitlin Hickey.

In turn, Northern Lebanon didn't bat an eye when confronted with Township's size and strength advantage, getting 14 points apiece from big guns Zoe Zerman and Brandt, 13 points and three huge 3s from Liz Voight, and blood-and-guts hustle and loose ball corralling from Kintzer and Cassiah Ray.

"It was tough, but we found a way," said a beaming Kintzer, who scored just four points but pulled down 14 rebounds, none bigger than her last one, which came off a missed foul shot and allowed NL to run clock and sew up the win at the line in the final minute. "We pulled through. It was awesome."

Northern Lebanon grabbed a 14-11 lead after a defense-heavy first half thanks to eight points from Zerman, then both teams got untracked offensively in a third quarter that ended with a Ray putback just before the buzzer and a 28-24 NL lead.

A corner three from Voight opened up a 31-26 Viking lead with 6:25 left, but Township came right back with an 8-2 flurry that culminated with a Hickey bomb from beyond the arc and a 34-33 lead for the Blue Streaks with 3:12 to go.

Given its lack of playoff experience, it was the perfect time for the Vikings to fold. But they haven't unballed their fists all season, why start now?

"This is just one of those teams. If the ball is rolling on the floor I know one of my kids is gonna be the one to get it," Battistelli said. "They're just not gonna quit, and they needed every bit of it because Township wasn't gonna quit."

Some shaky foul shooting late in the fourth prevented Northern Lebanon from wrapping up the win in regulation and allowed Hickey's layup with 18 ticks left to knot the score at 36 and ultimately force OT.

Big buckets came from Voight and Brandt in OT, the latter a controversial go-ahead putback after she appeared to be fouled on the floor, but the effort and the win was symbolized by the relentless hustle of the 5-6 Kintzer, whose aforementioned O-board all but clinched the win.

"She wants to win for her team so much," Battistelli said. "You can't get a more beautiful player. She's completely selfless. She'll die for us. And her motor never stops. What she does for us requires more heart than scoring."

Northern Lebanon 47, Manheim Township 41 (OT)

Manheim Township (41)

Olivia Matto 2 0-0 4, Delaney McKnight 1 0-0 2, Caitlyn Newcomer 6 1-1 13, Caitlin Hickey 4 1-1 11, Mary Beitzel 0 1-2 1, Megan Baldassarre 3 4-6 10. Totals — 16 7-11 41.

Northern Lebanon (47)

Cassiah Ray 1 0-1 2,  Liz Voight 4 2-2 13, Megan Brandt 6 2-4 14, Amber Kintzer 1 2-4 4, Raeann Lessing 0 0-0 0, Zoe Zerman 5 4-4 14  Totals — 17 10-15 47

Manheim Twp. _ 5 _ 6 _ 13 _ 12 _ 5 _— _ 41 

N. Lebanon _ 9 _ 5 _ 14 _ 8 _ 11 _ — _ 47 

3-point goals — MT 2 (Hickey 2), NL 3 (Voight 3).